Sport Tech Hub are proud to work with many organisations who support Londoners to become more active and lead healthy lifestyles, and in turn supporting positive mental health across the capital.
An organisation who are putting mindfulness and mental wellbeing practices at the core of what they do is Lupa, the mindful running app. We sat down with Conor Stone, Community Lead at Lupa, to hear about their work in building communities of like-minded individuals across London, who value the importance of exercise in managing their mental health.
Tell us a bit about Lupa and what a user can experience using the app?
We built Lupa so that runners of all levels can fully appreciate all the magic that movement has to offer.
With Lupa, you experience the truly transformative power of running while reaching a level of self-awareness and knowledge of your psycho-physical status that you will not have seen before. Whether it is a course, a guided experience, or a live paced session, you just click, put your phone away, and let Lupa’s voice guide you. Then, while Lupa takes care of your performance, you can get in the right mindset to truly enjoy running more. No need to check your phone, no need to worry. You can just be in the present moment and enjoy the feeling of moving.
Whether someone is working towards a specific running goal, or they simply want to get some Headspace, we’ll be there to help!
Lupa has built up an amazing community of like-minded people across London, of all ages, backgrounds and running capabilities. Can you tell us about the Lupa Run club and the positive effect of this community?
Lupa is nothing without its community.
Like many, we launched our business in the midst of a pandemic and that meant that for a long time, there were people using Lupa, running with the app every day, and we hadn’t met any of them. That is what inspired us to set up our London Run Club when restrictions began to reduce.
Our run clubs are a place for like-minded runners (of all levels) to come together, be active, and get social. We run an open level 5k together every Sunday Morning in Hyde Park or Battersea Park, we go at the pace of the last runner, and we focus as much on the conversation as on the run itself.
We began in June 2021, and now have over 100 members, ages ranging from 17-65, and running abilities ranging from beginners, to ultra-marathon runners. This dynamic is so special and has brought up some lovely moments.
At run club, I’ve seen an ultra-marathon runner guide a beginner all the way from struggling to complete a 5k, to regularly running (and enjoying!) 10ks. I’ve seen a secondary school student get work experience thanks to an elder run club statesman. I’ve seen two run club members becoming a couple. I’ve seen members cry. I’ve seen members laugh. And I’ve seen members create real friendships.
It’s what Lupa is all about – the magic of movement – and community is definitely a big part of that magic.
How can Londoners make their runs more mindful?
To be Mindful on your running journey; you don’t necessarily need to go slow or to do a meditation. Mindfulness in its most simple form is having an awareness of your present experience, without any judgement for yourself or that experience. To come into that mindful moment, all you need is an anchor to take you away from your anxieties about the past or the future. In mindfulness practices, this anchor is often our breath, but it could be anything from our touch to our sight to our smell. Senses that are accessible to each of us, whether we are running in our local park or sitting on our couch. That could mean you are mindful when you recognise how tough your run is; when you notice a beautiful view; when you hear the traffic that you pass; or when you feel the wind and rain against your body.
Some tips I would recommend to runners are to:
Look Around You – So often as we run, we look at the ground in front of us and miss the world that we pass through. Why not take a moment every now and then to look up and take in the views around you? When we focus on the external world, we can anchor our minds away from any uncomfortable thoughts or feelings, and allow our minds to quieten down. This is especially nice if you have the option to run in a park, on a beach or by water. Noticing these things can help you to recognise that there is a world outside of your workplace, outside of your worries.
It’s Not Always a Race – Not all of your running has to be at 100% effort. There are occasions where you can and you might like to go for a faster time or for a longer distance, and that’s completely OK, it’s just worth remembering that easier runs are just as important in our running training. When you do an easier run, even if it doesn’t result in a personal best, you will still build strength, burn calories, and improve your running economy, as well as maybe having that opportunity to slow down and recognise just how good it feels to move.
Breathe – Our breath is so powerful – it has the ability to anchor us into the present moment, fuel our bodies, and even alter our heart rate. On your next run, try this – Breathe in twice through your nose, before breathing out slowly through your nose. This is a practice called 2 breaths in and 1 breath out which helps to improve your Heart Rate Variability mid run. The technique helps to reopen the alveoli in the lungs through the inhale, and then helps to release more carbon dioxide from the lungs through the extended exhale (Interestingly enough, it’s what our body does naturally after we cry!). This can help to reduce your heart rate and decrease lactic acid build up, as well as being an anchor into your present running experience. Pretty cool.
Scan your Body – Body scans help you to connect your mind and body, so what better way to do so than in the form of a relaxing run? Instead of doing the practice seated or lying down, set out on a light run or walk, and just scan through your body from head to toe. Notice how your feet feel as they hit off the floor beneath you, notice how high your forearms raise as run, notice how your hands are positioned, notice the quality of your breath. See how this feels and whatever comes up, don’t judge it, just notice it and if its sore, you can look after it that little bit better later, if feeling good, maybe you can channel that feeling this week and attempt that faster run. Its about connecting with and understanding what is good for your body.
Be Kind to Yourself – As we said at the beginning, ‘Mindfulness in its most simple form is having an awareness of your present experience, without any judgement for yourself or that experience’. Most people tend to remember the first half of the definition but the second half is just as important. If you can take one thing away from this article, make it a reminder to be kinder to yourself inside and outside of your running. If you fall short of a target, or if you get injured, it does not mean you are a failure or a bad person. You are the same lovely person as you were before you set out on your run so don’t beat yourself up. Just recognise what happened and take learnings from it. Be kind to yourself and remember why you started and why you enjoy running in the first place.
Oh and of course.. try out some of Lupa’s guided body scan, reflection, and breathwork runs!